The Richland Fire Department is excited about the new station planned for the southwest part of the city, and will enjoy using the facility, said Fire Chief Grant Baynes.
But the new station -- which will be Richland's fourth and the first one built in the city since the early 1990s -- "is not being built for us," he said.
It's for the community, and "the true value is in what it's going to do for the community in terms of coverage and protection," Baynes said.
The new $3.5 million fire station will sit on city-owned land near Duportail Street and Queensgate Drive. It's an area of the city of more than 51,000 residents that's seen significant growth in recent years.
The homes and businesses nearby will benefit by having a closer fire station, and the new facility also will improve service systemwide by taking pressure off other stations, officials said.
They noted that deciding on the location of the new station didn't happen in a vacuum -- local fire agencies have worked together on coordination. "We've all agreed across the whole industry in the Tri-Cities that we're going to put stations in the right place for both the municipality or the agency and a regional response network," said Richland Battalion Chief Tom Huntington.
Other collaboration is happening too. Richland is sharing the cost of some initial fire station planning and design work with Kennewick. (Officials in that city want to build a new fire station on West 10th Avenue.)
The shared design manual and schematic drawings -- providing a conceptual picture of layout and features -- are scheduled to be done by year's end.
Richland fire officials said they'll then be ready to move into the more detailed design phase. Groundbreaking could happen in May, with the new station opening in 2015.
To pay for the new fire station and six new firefighters that will be brought on board, the city is raising the monthly ambulance utility fee and the electric utility occupation tax.
The ambulance utility fee will go up by $2.32 a month for each occupied home and business in Richland, according to information from the city.
The utility tax increase is 1.1 percent for most customer classes. The bump will add about 94 cents a month to the average residential customer's bill, the city information said.
City officials have noted the utility tax rate still will be below that of neighboring cities.
Fire officials praised the city council for making the decision to move forward with the project.
"The city prioritized this, the council prioritized this among many very solid projects that are in the lineup, and we appreciate that," Huntington said.
"We want to be good stewards," he added. "We expect to move in and take very good care of (the new station), and have the community excited about what this will mean in terms of service back to them."
-- Sara Schilling: 582-1529; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @saraTCHerald